Games are some of the most effective, and possibly the oldest, learning tools. If you are looking for a way to spice up your product or program, it’s time to add a game to your learning environment. The question is – what exactly do we mean by a learning ‘game’, and why is it so effective?
Game Type #1: Just for Fun
Games that are used just for the fun of it can energize learners and get them in a positive mood for learning. The ‘Energizer’ or ‘Icebreaker’ game is primarily intended to set the tone of fun. Sometimes icebreakers can also be to create an environment of participation, interaction, and equality in the ‘room’ (virtual or otherwise), so that participants are ready to learn.
Game Type #2: The ‘Aha’
The ‘Aha’ game is a simple game focused on making a point, or creating awareness of a critical concept in the audience. It could be a riddle, a ‘what’s missing’ cartoon, a ‘reveal the picture’, or word game. The point is: there is only one point, and the game helps you make that one point.
Game Type #3: Learn as You Play
Discovery, scenario and board games allow you to progress through a learning experience as you play the game. The key factor that changes in these games is based on how much your audience already knows about the subject – if the subject is new to them, the game is only a framework for learning. The content must still be presented (or ‘found’ or ‘discovered’ by the learner). For learners who are already close to the level of skill you want them to achieve, as opposed to new concepts that are a big leap for the learner, simulations are an excellent tool. The main differentiator for learn-as-you-play games is that you are creating an environment where the learners learn for themselves.
Game Type # 4: Review or Assessment
Finally, you can use games to review and test knowledge or skill. Passing questions correctly allows you to progress in the game, or increase your ‘score.’ Quiz Show games, timed skills games, and games that require you to answer questions correctly (as in a test) are all forms of review or assessment games. Given the anxiety and resistance many folks have to tests – making it into a game is a great way to reduce the anxiety factor. (Keep in mind, though, that depending on a person’s thinking style, timed games may favor some and hinder others.)
Games are effective because they are ‘Active’ rather than ‘Passive’ learning. When you must actively participate and decide how to proceed, you are actively imprinting the concepts in your mind. When you passively listen, or even read or review content – your brain can separate the activities of reading or listening, with that of ‘storing’ or ‘saving’ that information for future use. There are actually three steps to how the brain develops new knowledge, skills or abilities – first to collect, then to store, then to retrieve the information. A game forces you to do all three at once, reinforcing the neural pathways that will allow you to recall that information or skill again in the future. And don’t forget about the motivation factor – games are fun, which create enjoyment and motivation. What’s a better recipe for success than that?
Shall we play a game? Let’s play a little game now … click on the link below, and play a little game sample game produced by one learning game developer, Raptivity: Play Game.